National Mircrochipping Month - Why a chip on the shoulder is a good thing!

Our experts, Jackie Taylor from Peddymark and cat breeder and GCCF board member Steve Crow, help explain why microchipping is so important to prevent the distress associated with a lost or stolen pet, and answer some frequently asked questions.

Is it compulsory for pets to be microchipped?

Currently, it is compulsory for dogs to be microchipped by the time they are six to eight weeks of age. They should be registered in the first instance to the breeder (the owner of the bitch) and then the details transferred to the new keepers once the breeder has sold the puppies. In January 2022 the Government announced plans to make microchipping a legal requirement for pet cats.

“This change came after consultation that indicated 99 per cent of respondents were in favour of the change,” says Steve Crow. “It is thought that 75 per cent of cats in the UK are microchipped but that still leaves about 2.6 million cats that are not. Cats will be required to be microchipped by the time they are 20 weeks old and failure to microchip could result in a £500 fine.”

What happens if I don’t microchip? Could I be fined?

At present, in England and Wales keepers of dogs not microchipped could be fined up to £500. In Scotland this could be as much as £2,000. “It is believed the fines will be the same for cats, once the legislation is introduced,” says Steve Crow.

What is the cost of having a pet microchipped?

“This can vary depending on where you live and who is completing the process,” says Peddymark’s Jackie Taylor. “DEFRA-approved, trained lay Implanters can charge between £7 and £12 per animal, vets may charge slightly more. It is advisable to shop around in your local area to see what options are available to you.”

Are there any future costs associated with registering an animal on a database?

This varies from company to company. “Some offer a one-off package that allows pet keepers to update their records as many times as needed. Others charge a fee every time you change the details,” explains Steve Crow. “This varies but averages around £10.”

Are there any health risks associated with chipping?

“Providing the animal being microchipped is fit and healthy and the after-care advice is followed (for example, leaving the site alone for 12 to 24 hours, refraining from using a harness for the same timeframe and no rigorous exercise), there are no health risks to be concerned about,” says Jackie Taylor. As with any injection, localised infection is theoretically possible but it is very, very rare, reassures Steve Crow. “If you notice any issues, contact your vet as soon as possible,” he advises.

Does the microchipping itself hurt?

According to Jackie Taylor, any discomfort is very short-lived. “There will be momentary pain as the needle is inserted through the skin. This will last only a second or two, and then the microchip is in place for the rest of the animal’s life, so it really is worth it,” she reassures. “Nervous animals may be better if they are chipped in the surroundings they are used to, many lay implanters will travel to your home to microchip so this may be beneficial to particularly nervous animals.”

Can those with small-breed puppies wait longer?

The legislation states that all dogs should be microchipped between 6 to 8 weeks of age. However,

it is vital that a puppy is registered to the breeder before it is transferred to its new keeper. “Providing a breeder of smaller breeds completes this before the puppy is passed on to its new keeper this shouldn’t be an issue,” believes Jackie Taylor. “ Likewise, if there is a health problem causing concern and the animal is considered not well enough to be microchipped, a vet’s advice should be sought, and an exemption certificate can be issued to delay the microchipping until it is considered the animal is well enough. There are also smaller microchips available now, so it is less of an issue microchipping small breeds at eight weeks of age.”

Cat owners have longer: until 20 weeks. However, Steve Crow says that he has never heard of an issue microchipping kittens. “A microchip is a very small device: about the size of a grain of rice. The procedure is quick and causes no more discomfort than having a vaccination injection. Microchips are routinely inserted into small kittens and small-breed puppies with no problem.”

Who is responsible for registering the owners’ details? And how easy is it to do this?

“If you are a breeder selling puppies or kittens – or for whatever reason you are selling or rehoming an older cat or dog – it is your responsibility to contact the database company,” advises Steve.

According to Jackie Taylor, registering and changing details is straightforward: “Most UK-compliant databases have made this procedure very simple with a transfer code and online access to complete the registration, although most reputable databases will also assist with this over the phone during normal working hours.”

Taking the time to update details that change is well worth it, believes Steve Crow: “If your records are not up to date, it makes it much harder for a vet or rescue centre to reunite you with your cat or dog should it go missing.”

Do you still need to use a collar once a pet is microchipped?

Yes for dogs. It is still a legal requirement for dogs to wear a collar tag when out in public places. There is no legal requirement for cats to have a collar.

Where is the best place to put the microchip?

In companion animals the microchip should be placed under the skin between the shoulder blades.

Can chips migrate? If so, where are the best places to look when scanning an animal to see whether it is chipped?

“Migration is less of an issue these days as most microchips come with anti-migratory aids,” says Jackie Taylor. “However, it is still considered good practice to scan the animal thoroughly all over to check for a microchip. The scanners used nowadays generally have a good read range, so it only takes 20 to 30 seconds to scan an animal thoroughly.”

 Do microchips ever fail to work or stop working after a time?

A microchip is completely passive, which means it has no working parts: it is the scanner that energises the microchip to receive its unique code. So, if a microchip scans correctly before it is implanted, it shouldn’t fail to scan once it is in place.

“It is extremely rare to hear of a microchip being present but not being picked up by a scanner,” says Steve Crow. “Should this happen, the chip is usually replaced by the manufacturer for free

Is there universal equipment used to scan for microchips or do those scanning animals need multiple devices?

“All scanners sold within the UK pet industry should comply with the ISO standard 11785,” states Jackie Taylor. “This means they are universal and will scan all FDX B microchips, which are the ones used in the UK companion animal market, regardless of who the supplier is.”

How secure is the data related to the microchip?

UK-compliant microchip databases will adhere to data-protection regulations. This data is held for reunification and compliance purposes and should only be released to an authority or authorised person if requested. Some databases offer keepers the right to set their own privacy settings at the point of registration.

Can a microchip be used to track my pet if it gets lost?

“No,” says Jackie Taylor. “A microchip needs to energised by a scanner in order for it to be read; it doesn’t constantly transmit, so you cannot search for the microchip itself: it requires the animal to be found and the microchipped scanned to initiate the reunification process.”

GPS collars are available but there are pros and cons to them, believes Steve Crow. “They certainly don’t eliminate the risk of your pet getting lost. If this happens, being microchipped with up-to-date details is the best way of ensuring you are reunited.”

HOW TO SCAN AN COMPANION ANIMAL

  • Always scan a test microchip first to check the scanner is working properly
  • Hold the scanner parallel to the animal, barely touching it or less than an inch away
  • Scanning in an “S” shape from side to side is the best way of ensuring the chip is scanned whatever position it is in
  • Go slowly. Beginning with the shoulder blades and the area between. If the chip hasn’t been detected next scan the head to the tip of the tail. Then from the shoulder down the legs and then repeat the S-shape motion along the animal’s sides

HOW TO AVOID COMMON MISTAKES RELATING TO MICROCHIPPING

Scan thoroughly

Sometimes animals – especially older animals – end up being microchipped twice because the animal hasn’t been scanned thoroughly enough in the first instance. “This causes great confusion and the pet keeper having to update two different microchip numbers, potentially across two different databases,” says Jackie. “In the worst-case scenario, failing to thoroughly scan and locate an existing chip can result in a lost or stolen animal being re-chipped and rehomed.” 

Check a newly implanted chip after 24 hours

If a microchip is going to work its way out after implantation, this will occur within the first 24 hours while the wound created by the needle heals. “It is strongly recommended to check puppies and kittens after 24 hours to make sure the microchip is still in place,” advises Jackie Taylor.

Keep paperwork in order

Mistakes can occur when breeders do not have their own scanner to check the microchip number of the puppy they are selling and accidentally give the wrong paperwork away with the wrong puppy. This can result in the animal having the correct keeper details registered on a database but registered to the wrong microchip number. This is easily resolved by the breeder investing in a scanner to ensure they check each animal before it leaves them.

Make sure details are up to date
Pet owners may forget to keep their contact details up to date, which can result in a delay in reunification. Some databases send annual reminders to keepers to help with this issue.

Whoops – which database is my pet registered with?
“There is a misconception that it is not easy to locate which UK-compliant database a microchip is registered on,” says Jackie Taylor. “However, every compliant database should have a search on its home page that searches all other UK-compliant databases. This means anyone can search a microchip number with ease from their database of choice.”